But the researchers also found some unexpected results -- a history of diabetes or heart bypass at the time of diagnosis was associated with slower progression of Alzheimer's, the study said.
Mielke said the researchers aren't sure what the association between diabetes and slower Alzheimer's progression means. They speculated that patients who'd undergone heart bypass surgery may have benefited from their heart's increased ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Other factors that may have helped bypass patients include better overall health, better diets, and closer monitoring by physicians, she added.
The study did not specifically look at the impact of treating vascular conditions such as high blood pressure on Alzheimer's patients. But the results did show that patients who had been treated with high blood pressure drugs prior to their Alzheimer's diagnosis did decline more slowly, according to one rating scale, the researchers said.
Earlier this year, French researchers reported that Alzheimer's patients with vascular disease who received standard medications -- such as statins, anti-clotting agents, insulin and anti-hypertensive drugs -- did better cognitively over a 36-month period than those who didn't receive such treatment.
Dr. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, said the work of Mielke and her colleagues is "confirming and affirming that vascular factors have a significant role to play in Alzheimer's disease in moderating the onset and the course of the illness. It suggests a large portion of treatment and preventive treatment should be focused on cardiovascular disease."
Dr. William Thies, vice president for me
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